By MICHAEL HAMAD, firstname.lastname@example.org
12:00 AM EDT, March 10, 2014
She's got a new album in the works, but it's nowhere near finished yet. Her Emmy-winning Food Network show, "Trisha's Southern Kitchen," is doing just fine, thanks, and two of her three cookbooks have become New York Times bestsellers. (Oh, yeah: she's married to Garth Brooks.) What good reason could country superstar Trisha Yearwood have for going out on tour?
CTNow spoke with the singer about her Just Because Tour, which finds Yearwood and her band mixing things up from night to night, paying tribute to one of her musical heroes and occasionally sampling regional cuisine. The tour stops at Foxwoods in Mashantucket on Saturday, March 15, at 8 p.m.
CTNow: It's been five years since the last tour. You've been performing, but how often did you think about launching a new tour during that stretch?
Trisha Yearwood: I really didn't think about it until the last year of being consistently busy with the cooking show, which, if I'm not filming, I'm in post-production, editing what we filmed, or in pre-production for the next season. It really has taken off. It can be completely time-consuming, 100 percent of the time if I let it, and it's been really fun. We've worked music into the show when it's made sense. But the thought of going out and doing a really big tour with [husband] Garth [Brooks] started to become more of a reality for the next couple of years, I realized that doing these kinds of intimate theater shows that I love is something that I won't get a chance to do for awhile, and if I don't do it now, I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to do it again, whether I have an album out or not. So I called my manager and said, "Do I have to have an album coming out to go do this?" Because the album's in the works, but it's not going to come out for awhile. He said, "No, if you want to go do some shows, let's go do some shows." It came out that way, just me looking at the next couple of years and knowing that this is something that I really enjoy doing. I've done a half a dozen shows so far, and I've just had the best time… This is really a selfish tour. I should call it "The Selfish Tour."
CTNow: From what I've read, there seems to be a real spontaneous approach to the show. I'm not sure if you call songs on the spot or not, but would you say there's a desire to be sort of loose and free and fun?
TY: Absolutely. My shows have never been very structured. I've never had a set thing that I say between songs. I don't always stick to the playlist, and I like that. I like that every show is different, depending on the audience. That's what's great about these theaters: if somebody yells out a song from the audience, I can hear them. If they yell something that's not on the list, or if they yell something that I haven't done in 10 years, the band is always like, "Oh, great, here we go." But if they don't know it, I can do a little piece of it a cappella or whatever. So for that night, at that venue, for that person, they get something that is different, and for us it's kind of fun because it keeps us on our toes. Our shows have always been that way, and we've done that for this last half dozen or so shows. We've done several songs that we had no intention of doing, and that makes it fun for everybody. I'll always do songs like "How Do I Live?" I can't imagine not doing that song in the show. But the rest of the show is open to whatever we want to do, and it's probably why the cooking show has done well, because it's kind of the same concept. We don't have a script for the show, but we have recipes, family recipes that definitely have a rhythm to them. All of the conversation that happens is really out of my head, based on my family history. I'm sure it's a joy in the editing room for these guys to piece together a show [laughs]. But I like that it's not scripted, because I think it's more real.
CTNow: So performing onstage and doing the cooking show are both improvisational, in a way.
TY: Yes, and that can be great or it can be bad. There are nights when I'm on stage telling a story that I think is really funny, and some nights it works great. But some nights I think, "Why am I saying this?" I'll just say to the audience, "There are times when I think I'm really funny, and then there's now." [laughs] It's real, and it works.
CTNow: I have a theory that the reason for the tour is to check out some local cuisine around the country. Is there any truth to that?
TY: So far, no. I have enjoyed catering in the venue every day. In Florida, we did a couple of shows, and then I hosted a brunch at a food festival in Miami, so that was definitely all about food. It just depends. This past run, our drive between cities: we've had about a 12-hour drive, so we won't get to the next city until 1 p.m. the next day, and you have to leave by 2 p.m. for sound check. So there's just food at the venue. But I'd love to. I always try to figure out what's the thing in your city, what's the thing I should try or experience while I'm here. But some days it's possible and some days it's not.
CTNow: You spend a portion of the show paying tribute to Linda Ronstadt. What did her music mean to you growing up?
TY: I can't even tell you how much. The very first time I heard her voice, when I was a teenager, I was mesmerized. I had always been a fan of very powerful singers, so the records that my parents had that I latched onto were Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley — unique voices that were so full and had so much passion in them. They made you believe every word. So when I discovered Linda Ronstadt, she was the one for my generation. I said, "Yeah, that's the gal." I love her song choices, I love the emotion she sang with, I love hearing the breath between the phrases. I was obsessed with her, so I'm probably her biggest fan. She should probably have a restraining order against me [laughs]. Several things: she announced she has Parkinson's Disease and that she's never going to sing again, which breaks my heart. One of my career goals was to sing with her, and I never got a chance to do that. Another thing is that she's going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, which I think is well-deserved. I just want people to know how important her music is. Because this is the Just Because Tour, I can sing whatever I want, so I'm going to do some Ronstadt. For me, it's wonderful. It's still that 14 or 15-year-old girl inside me who sang all those songs in my bedroom, in my living room, and now I'm getting a chance to sing them for an audience. I'm enjoying it. It's truthfully my favorite part of the show.
CTNow: Can you tell us anything about the new album you're working on?
TY: What I've learned is that I've never done an album this way. I tried really hard to work on it in my spare time, and I've learned that that's not the way to do it. The cooking career takes up 100 percent of your time, so you have to find a way to make it all work together. It's been a challenge. Over the course of the last couple of years, I've worked on a new record, and now where I'm at is that I have a little window of time between when this tour is done and when I start filming more shows for the Food Network. I want to finish [the album], and I just want to concentrate on that. I've probably cut eight or 10 songs over the last few years, and out of those maybe four or five really stand up. After making 12 or 13 albums, you don't really say anything new. You find songs that speak to you, and I've always done that. So I don't have a good way to explain what kind of record it is. I don't even really know yet. Once the last half of the songs really find their way, it always kind of speaks for itself. I don't have any desire to do anything radically different, musically speaking. It's not going to be some kind of musical departure, but hopefully it'll be something that people say, "Oh, she sounds good," and "I love these songs." It's all about the song, and over the years I've been fortunate to work with some really great songwriters. I still have those relationships. To me, those are really hard to find. You just have to listen and listen and listen, and hopefully one of them will come along and you'll say, "Oh, what a beautiful song."
TRISHA YEARWOOD performs on Saturday, March 15, at 8 p.m. at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, 350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket. Tickets are $40-$60. Information: foxwoods.com.
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